Johnny Benson and his crew chief James Ince will never forget that feeling in March when their fast start to the 2000 season with a new team appeared to come crashing down. The team missed the Atlanta race; a particularly tough blow considering it...
Johnny Benson and his crew chief James Ince will never forget that feeling in March when their fast start to the 2000 season with a new team appeared to come crashing down. The team missed the Atlanta race; a particularly tough blow considering it was 11th in points before Atlanta. Rain cancelled second round qualifying on Saturday that weekend and NASCAR used the 1999 standings to determine provisionals. The team was too far down in points from last year to claim a provisional.
So the young team went home, but not before vowing that it would come back to Atlanta and seek a measure of revenge that it hopes to claim this weekend.
Since that lowpoint, the team has been bought by MB2 Motorsports and after some days when it appeared the doors would close, Atlanta-based Aaron's stepped in and saved the season by agreeing to sponsor the team the rest of the year. The future has never looked brighter as Valvoline becomes the co-owner and sponsor in 2001.
Ince On Missing The Race & Vowing To Win The Pole Next Time:
"The day after we missed the race at Atlanta we had a Sunday morning meeting back at the shop. We decided our goal for the rest of the year was to fix our qualifying program and then go back to Atlanta at the end of the year and sit on the pole. We had a test three weeks ago at Atlanta and we learned that we could go back there and sit on the pole. It will be a moral victory for the team to make the race, but we want to go there and qualify in the top ten or even better sit on the pole and win the race. We made that commitment to each other that Sunday morning back home and since then we have improved our program every race."
Ince On Atlanta As A Turning Point For Season:
"I don't think Atlanta was a turning point. The turning point for this team was actually a year ago at Homestead when we sat on the pole. Some of us knew that Johnny Benson might come drive our race cars. We started putting the ingredients together to build the success that we have had this year. Then we went to Daytona and did what we did there. We proved to ourselves that we could run up front and contend for a victory. Atlanta was more devastating than anything else. This team had missed races last year because it was part of the growing process but we thought missing races was all behind us. It hurt to sit home and watch that race on television. We knew we were better than half those team racing there that day. If it did anything it struck a fire under us to go out in the rest of the races and prove what we can do."
Ince On Team's Progress Since Atlanta:
"I'm pleased but I'm not satisfied. We are maybe half way to where we are going. I think down the road this is a team that has the potential to win a championship. But we aren't there yet. We are pleased that we made huge gains and we are getting smarter. Yeah, the whole world has written about us and talked about what all we have gone through financially this year, but unless you have been here you really don't know all the hurdles we have overcome just to make it to the race track this season. It's about fifty percent worse than what people actually know.
"Now that we have a little jingle in our pocket the world is going to be a whole lot more surprised next year.
Benson On Atlanta:
"I don't know how hard it was hard to watch the Atlanta race in March because I didn't watch it. I took my daughters out to lunch that day and to a fun park that afternoon. So we made the best of it that day.
"I don't know if we are out for revenge this weekend. We have a lot to accomplish this weekend because it is the final race of the year and we'd like to get up to 12th in the points. That has to be one of the highest finishes for a team that missed a race. Sure it would be cool to do well here and then say we came here and kind of conquered the track that got us in March.
"When you consider all that this team went through this year and all that we have to look forward to with Valvoline coming on board as a part-owner and sponsor next year then our problems here in March are just going to be a blip on the radar."
<pre> THE RACE: NAPA 500 Winston Cup Race #34 of 34 for the 2000 season a.. Race: Sunday, November 19, 2000 in Hampton, GA b.. TV: ESPN 1:00pm/et c.. Posted Awards/Purse: $2,860,522 d.. 1999 Race Winner: Bobby Labonte e.. Race Record: Dale Earnhardt, Nov 1995, 163.633mph f.. Track/Race Length: 1.54 mile quad-oval, 325 laps, 500.5 miles g.. Pit Road Speed: 45mph
Practice h.. Practice: Friday, Nov 17th 11:30am - 1:30pm/et; Saturday, Nov 18th 9:30 - 10:15am/et i.. Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, Nov 18th, after the ARCA race, TV-ESPN2
Qualifying j.. Qualifying Draw: Friday, Nov 17th at 10:30am/et k.. First Round Qualifying: 1 lap for positions 1-25, Friday, Nov 17th at 3:00pm/et, TV-ESPN2 and live via PRN radio/internet l.. Second-Round Qualifying: 1 lap for positions 26th-36th, Saturday, Nov 18th at 11:00am/et m.. Track/Event Qualifying Record: Geoffrey Bodine, Nov 1999, 197.478mph n.. Last Year's Pole Sitter: Kevin Lepage, 193.731mph
o.. Track Specs: Degree of Banking: Turns: 24 degrees Straightaways: Banking: 5 degrees; Straights: Frontstretch - 1471 feet; Backstretch - 1380 feet.